How Low Can You Go? Big Brass Spotlighted During OU’s “Octubafest”

Posted on:

< < Back to

In traditional orchestra and concert band settings, the tuba and euphonium players are relegated to the back of the stage.

These performers, while an important component of any ensemble, tend to be overlooked by casual concertgoers and even some musicians.

Ohio University Associate Professor of Tuba Jason Smith hopes to change all that. Starting Oct. 9, the big brass moves front and center during the 15th annual "Octubafest," a month-long celebration of the tuba and euphonium, hosted by the OU School of Music.

Established in 1974, Octubafest was created by the late tuba virtuoso Harvey Phillips as a way to honor his teacher, William Bell of Indiana University. Since then, the annual event has become a mainstay at hundreds of universities and communities around the world.

Ohio University's tuba concert series was launched shortly after Smith–who also serves as a visiting artist at other schools' Octubafests–started teaching at the School of Music in 1999. This month's shows will feature a mix of guest artists, OU faculty and students performing solo and in ensembles.

For Smith, it's a chance to introduce the public to a couple of very musical, yet sometimes misunderstood, instruments. One of the events he's looking forward to is a presentation/performance at the Athens Public Library on Oct. 10. A sort of "tuba outreach," if you will.

"That's a perfect description, actually. It's meant to expose the instruments, both tuba and euphonium, to folks outside of the School of Music community," he said. "We have a huge supporter in Todd Bastin, a librarian who has a musical heritage in his background, who is always looking to bring such events to his venue."

Smith said that it's important to remember that the idea of a professional tuba player is still a relatively new concept.

"Forty years ago the tuba/euphonium as a major, as an instrument you could study in college and eventually make a living on, was a still a very new thing," he explained. "That's why Harvey Phillips found it imperative to introduce such an event at the beginning of each school year…to help educate the students and community as a whole."

Although a lot of prep work and practice goes into OU's annual event, Smith stressed that fun, food and fellowship are also important when rallying the troops.

"Harvey's events would always traditionally culminate in a Octoberfest German-style celebration at his house, which is still known today as the 'Tubaranch.' Kegs, brats, polka bands…something we all try to maintain, along with the actual preparation and performances. It's about camaraderie."

Students Simon Wildman, Molly McConnell-Wildman, Angelo Sylvester, Jeff Barbee, Nathan Cain and Professor Jason Smith tackle the tuba. Photo: Robb DeCamp


Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Recital Hall
Chamber music featuring members of the OU Tuba/Euphonium Studio

SPECIAL OCTUBAFEST EVENT: A presentation on tuba/euphonium
Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m., Athens Public Library

Oct. 13, 8p.m., Recital Hall
Graduate Student Recital: Steven Darling, euphonium

Oct. 16, 8 p.m., Recital Hall
Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble (Steven Darling, director)
Trombone Choir (Sarah Paradis, director)

Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Recital Hall
Student Recital: Jason Snoddy (tuba) and Zach Poller (euphonium)

Oct. 27, 1 p.m., Recital Hall
Visiting Guest Artist: Timothy J. Northcut, tuba (Professor of Tuba/Euphonium, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) and Timothy Andersen (Professor of Trombone, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music)

Nov. 6, 8 p.m., Recital Hall
Faculty Chamber Recital: OhioBrass